A state Senator who represents most of Sauk County is breaking ranks with fellow Republicans in hopes of reaching a compromise on Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill.
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said in an interview with the Wisconsin Radio Network he would like to amend the bill so that proposed limits on collective bargaining for public employees would disappear after two years.
Schultz said there needs to be a national dialog about the fiscal crises of governments.
"But I also wanted people to know that collective bargaining is what gives people hope when they work for large organizations," Schultz said.
"And in the past, without collective bargaining, we've found a lot of anger and strife that poured into the streets, just like we have now. We haven't lived with it for a long time because for the last 70 years, collective bargaining has been evolving."
Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to fix a $137 million budget deficit this year includes stripping most public employees of their ability to collectively bargain. It would also force them to pay about 5.8 percent toward their pensions and about 12 percent of their health care benefits.
Walker's bill has sparked protests in Madison from angry union supporters and placed Wisconsin in the center of a national debate.
Schultz said his amendment would "remove everything but the necessary fiscal components of collective bargaining in order to achieve these emergency savings that are needed, and leave the rest of collective bargaining in place.
"And what I've been trying to do is convince my colleagues that my way is a better way than to let things spin out of control."
Walker said Monday he would not accept a compromise. Senate Democrats have left the state, pledging not to return until Walker negotiates. As a result, the bill's progress in the Senate has come to a halt - along with all other Senate business.
Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, called Schultz' proposal "brave," but said he couldn't comment on it because he hadn't seen the specifics. Clark said state employee unions have already offered to make concessions if their collective bargaining rights remain intact.
So far, Walker has been unwilling to work with Democrats toward a compromise, Clark said.
He said Assembly Democrats attempted to meet with Walker Friday in the Capitol, but were turned away by a spokesman who said the Governor was in the building but unavailable to meet.
"The Governor apparently didn't want to meet with us," Clark said. "He pretty well refused to meet and has not yet followed up with an offer to meet."
Assembly Democrats plan to offer a series of amendments to the bill today, including proposals that would alter how the bill treats public employees who happen to be low income or in poverty. They also plan to offer amendments to a part of the bill that gives the state Department of Health Services power to tweak the state's Medicaid program.
"We would certainly want to see more authority in the hands of the Legislature, where it belongs," Clark said.
Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, said he stands firm behind the Governor's bill.
Brooks said the bill has been amended so that the state's Civil Service Law, which offers some workplace protections, has been extended to all public employees.
He said the change will help protect teachers with many years of experience and higher salaries, who may have otherwise been vulnerable to layoffs.
Brooks said he does not support Schultz' proposal to force a sunset on collective bargaining limitations after two years.
"The fight is now," Brooks said. "Let's get it over with. If it passes and it's wrong, the Legislature can always go back and change this. ...
"The bottom line that seems to get lost today is the state is broke. We're out of money. There are no tricks left."
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